California Educator

December 2018 / January 2019

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Page 43 of 75

October 3, 2017: Fresno Teachers Association (FTA) holds a strike vote; only 20 out of 3,000 members vote against it. No one wants a strike, but FTA is willing to take this step for a contract that better serves the 74,000 students of Fresno Unified School District. Ultimately, a strike is averted. October 10, 2018: FTA and the district hold a historic joint labor and management meeting, after which FTA has a new contract, with an 8.5 percent salary increase and a promise to reduce class sizes. To reach this point has been a journey, FTA President Manuel Bonilla said. Both parties knew they had to get beyond the acrimony for their students' sake. "In our community, the poverty level is about 80 percent," he said. "For those students, education is beyond just knowledge — it's life or death. We need to serve them as a system, not just as teachers or administrators. We need to work together." Bonilla explains how FTA, the district and the community were able to collaborate and cooperate, and the lessons he learned along the way: Find common ground ree members of district leadership and three members of union lead- ership met with a conflict resolution team at Fresno Pacific University, known for strong programs in teacher education and peacemaking and During an historic meeting, Fresno Teachers Association site representatives and building administrators brainstormed ways they can better work together. FTA and Fresno Unified School District understood they had common goals: to serve their students and their community. From Conflict to Collaboration Fresno educators, district show how to come together to effect change conflict resolution. rough that process, we agreed we had the same goals. We want to serve our students and our community, which has one of the highest concentra- tions of poverty in America, and we agreed that finding solutions together would have a better impact. So that became our foundation going forward. Expand the circle To allow everyone to participate and share their voice, we had to expand our circle. The district invited the union to the principals' institute and cabinet meet- ings. We invited the superintendent and his staff to our Representative Council. We invited all school site repre- sentatives to bargaining meetings — that way we could see that issues that come up to the leadership level are probably systemwide, not just site-based. When teachers realized they were being heard, more came forward to share their ideas. Listen and Act We set up meetings to talk to the parents, teachers, stu- dents and community at all seven high schools and each of the middle and elementary schools. We asked them what their issues were. What did they want to see? Lower class sizes came up time and again, as did more social 42 Advocacy

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